A space maintainer is a removable or fixed appliance designed to maintain an existing space.
Purpose of space maintainer
Space maintainers are usually fitted in children when they have lost baby teeth early. The gap left from losing this tooth needs to be held open for the permanent tooth to erupt in the correct position.
A baby tooth is sometimes lost prematurely because of tooth decay or injury. If this occurs before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt the nearby teeth can shift or drift into the space where the primary tooth use to be creating a lack of space in the jaw for the permanent teeth. The teeth in the other jaw may also move up or down to fill in the gap.
If this crowding happens there may not be enough room for the new tooth to come in correctly, so it emerges lopsided or is not able to erupt at all.
Deciding to not place a space maintainer to save this space may cause a crowding condition which can make it more difficult:
- To clean the teeth thus increasing your child's risk for tooth decay.
- It can also make chewing difficult causing these teeth to wear down more quickly.
- If left untreated, this condition may result in extensive orthodontic treatment.
A space maintainer is important to hold or keep this space open for the permanent teeth and to help guide them into position.
Surprisingly some baby teeth are not replaced by adult teeth until a child reaches 12 or 14 years old!
The space maintainer is a small metal device that is custom fitted to your child's mouth. It is firmly fixed in the mouth and will be removed when the permanent tooth is in it's proper position.
It may consist of a band attached to the tooth on one side of the space with a wire loop or spring bridging the gap to the tooth on the other side. They steady the remaining teeth, preventing movement until the permanent tooth takes it's natural position.
How the procedure is done
- A mold of your child's mouth is taken at one appointment.
- The mold is sent to a laboratory that makes the space maintainer.
- At the second appointment the metal band is placed around the tooth that is behind the missing one.
- Next a loop or brace is placed that goes over the gum where the missing tooth was and rests against the tooth in front of this space.
- When the band is cemented on the tooth, it prevents the teeth from moving into the space where the missing tooth was and allows the adult tooth enough space to grow into the proper position.
- May reduce or eliminate the need for braces
- Eat comfortably
- Save space for proper eruption of adult teeth
Care Of Space Maintainers
To avoid the cost and time of replacement, please:
- Avoid sticky sweets, popcorn, ice and or chewing gum.
- Don't tug or push on the space maintainer with your fingers or tongue.
- Keep it clean with brushing and flossing.
- At night carefully clean around all wires, bands and other areas of the appliance, as it tends to trap food.
- After cleaning, please inspect the appliance carefully for damage.
- Keep your 6 month check up appointments to monitor oral health and to evaluate the space maintainer to determine when it needs to be removed.